Sour cherry season has just ended here in BC and those plump, sweet, dark cherries from the Okanagan are almost gone from our local markets. But there is a way to preserve all that cherry goodness. Freezing is a no-brainer and requires just a bit of time and patience. A cherry pitter is also a nice accessory and I’ve thankfully inherited one from my husband’s grandmother. It looks odd-ball but it does the trick, and so apparently, does a paper clip. Wish I had known about cherry pitters when I made this buttermilk cherry sherbet a couple years ago!
Macerating cherries is a perfect way to preserve this fleeting taste of summer. One way is to add cherries to a jam jar, top with booze (vodka, brandy and whiskey are all fine choices – but a cherry liqueur like Luxardo is another fantastic option) and let it sit for a week or more. Your Manhattans will thank you.
Freezing and pickling via alcohol are all excellent options, but when I spotted this cherry conserve by Jennifer Perillo, I was intrigued. The recipe starts off by mixing cherries and sugar along with orange zest and almond extract and letting it sit overnight. The next day it cooks up enough to call it a conserve. I’m sure it’s delicious – in fact, I know it is as it’s pretty much how I’ve made cherry compotes in the past. But I liked the idea of macerating the cherries in the sugar & flavourings without adding heat. I wanted cherries that screamed freshness.
And they did. They screamed freshness and flavour so loud that the jar was half empty before I realized that they were nearly gone. The lime zest and almond extract intensified the cherry flavour and eating each ruby red orb was like a ka-pow! right to my quivering taste buds. They were incredible! The remaining jar spilled over my morning pancakes and it made a very bright start to the day. I can only imagine how fantastic they’d be poured over ice cream or placed on a skewer and popped into a whiskey sour. I will be making these again (in fact, I have a batch sitting on the counter right this moment) and I will give this cherry slush a try too.
The macerated cherry recipe you’ll find below, but first I wanted to give a recipe for something a bit more unusual. After pitting pound after pound of cherries, I figured there had to be a better way than tossing them in the garbage. Thanks to a tip on Twitter, I used many of the remaining pits as a drainage base for a potted plant! Clever, no? But maybe not as clever as this cherry pit vodka. It couldn’t be easier. Pits + vodka = the heaven scent flavour of almonds. True, there is a teeny-tiny smidge of cyanide found in the pits, however, the amount is so small that I think we’re all safe for a sip or three. If you are still intrigued about what else you can do with your leftover cherry pits, this cherry pit ice cream sounds delicious.
cherry pit vodka
There’s no real recipe for this beverage. Add cherry pits into a tightly lidded jar. Top with vodka. Let wait at least a week. Strain and use in your favorite cocktail. Cheers!
macerated sour cherries
(adapted from In Jennie’s Kitchen)
2 c sour cherries (regular cherries would be fine too)
1/3 c organic sugar
1/2 t almond extract
zest of 1 lime
If you are using sour cherries, keep the cherries whole. If you are using Bing or a larger cherry, cut the cherries in half. Add all ingredients to a glass jar and give everything a good stir. Screw on lid and let sit over night on the counter. The next day give the jar a shake and pluck out a cherry. Let your eyes roll back. Repeat. The jar should last a couple weeks in the fridge, but I doubt you’ll have any left that long.